First time booking a Deluxe Suite: Never Again! NEVER!!!
I'm posting this review to give people an idea of what to expect on HAL cruises to nowhere, which are rare for the line. I took the cruise as simply a special way to celebrate my 40th birthday. I took the train from Seattle, spent two days at the Vancouver Westin being pampered in luxury and booked the Zaandam to return to Seattle. The ship was not full, in fact there were only about 300 pax total. The ship was deserted everywhere I went and it was obvious many employees had the day off.
Bars/Lounges: service was very good and I never had to wait long for a drink. Entertainment was operating in full swing as if the bars were standing room only.
Spa: I did use the thermal suite and was the only person in there. The steam room and sauna were operating, the special hot tub was also operating, but the water was anything but hot. The aroma therapy showers were not working. The rest of the spa was in full operation and I would have had no problem getting an appointment if I had desired one.
Stateroom: I chose a deluxe suite for this sailing and the service was horrific! A very big disappoinment. For starters, half the perks could not be utilized because the sailing was too short, so keep that in mind. Also, despite HAL's claim in their brocheres the level of luxury didn't even come close to a land based hotel suite that could be had for 1/3 of the price. The furnishings were in good condition, but had a faded look to them. I loved the verandah but I really feel one side of the ship should be reserved for nonsmokers, I would have enjoyed the verandah much more if I didn't have to smell the illegal substance being smoked next door to me. I was told by the Neptune staff that only about 12 suites were occupied which meant there was only one steward. By 10pm the room still had not been turned down for the evening. Room service dishes were still waiting to be collected. The Neptune was closed and I had go down to the front desk (the direct concierge line was not working on any of the telephones; perhaps they had the night off too) to request the bed be turned down (where was the top notch suite service here?). Since it was only a 1 night sailing I ordered room service breakfast for disembarkation and should have checked for accuracy before the steward left. Piled on top of my eggs and hash browns were 4 orders of greasy, undercooked bacon! There were 12 pieces on my plate, I counted em. In fact I was so flabbergasted by this point of the cruise, I just sat there for a minute and stared, then laughed out loud, grabbed my camera and took a picture. The smell was revolting, but I did manage to take a few bites. I wondered who was staffing the kitchen, and concluded that the crew deck probably had more excitement and partying then the rest of the ship. At this point I decided to go up on deck and see how the docking was going. I was up there for only about 20 minutes and then went back to finish my coffee. I got to my "suite" to find the door wide open and a steward breaking apart the bed with no attention paid whatsoever to my half eaten breakfast and clothing strewn about. No good morning, NOTHING! I was speechless and it was completely out of character to not have said something. But I was too preoccupied with disembarking procedures at the new Seattle cruise terminal to order him to "get out" or gone to the Neptune and asked the concierge to order him out; I quietly gathered my few belongings, on the verge of tears, and left the stateroom. I think what bothers me more than anything was that room was mine until 9:00 or so, it was only 7. I could understand completely if it had been a full ship, but it wasn't, they only had 12 suites to prepare, the remainder were done the day before because they were unoccupied.
Ship ambience: if you always wanted to experience a smaller ship but can't afford it, this would be the cruise for you. But if you think the ghost ships are creepy as I did you will find the silence and lack of people disconcerting. At one point I walked the entire ship just to find someone, anyone to say hello to. It was only 8:00 and couldn't figure out where people were off to, I finally found em all, in the big lounge, for that nights entertainment, as if they'd been herded in there. Most people I did manage to interract with struck me as newbie cruisers, perhaps the "crew" recommended they attend so they could return to the crew deck for their evening off. Nothing would have surprised me on this sailing.
Neptune Lounge: this was the only good experience I had. I was treated very well by the staff, who knew my name somehow before I had a chance to introduce myself. They must have access to the guest pictures that they take before boarding the ship. Or maybe of the 12 suite guests I was the only guy. The snacks provided were sooooo good! And the room was beautifully furnished.
To conclude: this was quite possibly my final cruise. After my 2nd cruise and the Anytime Dining fiasco (I was on the sailing when the new program was being introduced) I really hoped this would be different. Travel is just too expensive to take a chance on anymore, especially as a single, at least on land I can leave a bad hotel and find another one, on a ship I'm stuck. Holland America is going to have to do more than offer me a $100 past guest discount to get me back.